26 patients at mental hospital die of cold in Cuba
Twenty-six patients at a psychiatric hospital in Havana died as a result of cold weather this week, Cuban authorities confirmed Friday, dpa reported.
The Public Health Ministry said in a televised statement that the deaths were related to unusually low temperatures of less than 10 degrees Celsius.
The patients - all of them elderly - had suffered from age-related illnesses, and died of natural causes, but reports said negligence and lack of resources at the hospital had contributed to the deaths.
The ministry announced an investigation into the deaths and legal consequences for those found responsible. "Various deficiencies" in the measures taken by the hospital have been found, it added.
The statement followed a report by independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights on Thursday. The commission's spokesman, Elizardo Sanchez, accused the hospital of not providing enough food, blankets and warm clothing for the patients.
Cuba provides free universal health care. The communist state admits that its system is in a poor state, but blames the US trade embargo, which makes it difficult to import medical supplies and equipment.